Three years ago, Christopher Landon gave us 'Groundhog Day' meets 'Scream' with the surprise hit 'Happy Death Day', as well as its sequel 'Happy Death Day 2U' last year. Now he brings us 'Halloween' meets 'Freaky Friday' in the horror-comedy 'Freaky'.
The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn, 'Fighting With My Family', 'Hacksaw Ridge') haunts a small town around Homecoming season. He has become an urban legend amongst the teens - but this year, he is back. When he gets his hands on a magical dagger, he targets Millie (Kathryn Newton, 'Blockers', 'Pokémon Detective Pikachu'), a quiet high school student who is bullied by the popular girls and her teachers. But the knife's powers mean that the two accidentally swap bodies. Now a teenage girl, killing teenagers has never been easier - but for Millie, now a man wanted for murder, she has to work out how to switch back before midnight or she will be stuck forever.
'Freaky' is at its strongest when they just let Vaughn and Newtown go. I know most people will talk about how funny Vaughn is, and it's hilarious seeing him run away daintily and talk about boys - but Newtown as the serial killer psychopath is just as scene-stealing. There's also something inherently funny about saying serial killer Vince Vaugh.
The supporting cast is also fantastic. Millie's friends Josh (Misha Osherovich, 'The Goldfinch') and Nyla (Celeste O'Connor, 'Irreplaceable You') really get a lot of screen time, and both fun and engaging. They have the great line: "You're black, I'm gay. We are both dead." Booker (Uriah Shelton, TV's 'Looking for Alaska'), Millie's crush, has one of the movie's most scene-stealing moments in one of the funniest scenes of the year. I want to see all these young actors in more things in the years to come.
Similar to 'Happy Death Day', Landon feels the need to overload the story with pointless drama, losing focus on the central story and taking away from the fun. The 2010s really capitalised on the need for more backstory, more character depth, more padding. Because of the increase in the quality of many television series, movie studios often feel the need to beef up the narrative. Gone are those 90-minute gems of teen films; we've got stuff to explain. We get a forced sub-plot of a dead dad, an acholic absentee mother, a sister who is a cop and angry with her mother as well as distant from the family. It just weighs the movie down; the plot stops dead in the second act for a heartwarming moment that just keeps going and going. Why couldn't the movie be as simple as teenage girl and serial killer switch bodies and they have to switch back before midnight, or they stay that way? For a movie like this, we are here for the premise. We don't need to be emotionally connected. Give us good comedy and kills, and we will be happy campers. 'Freaky', again like 'Happy Death Day', would have massively befitted from just getting to that fun premise faster and running with it.
Most people will talk about how funny Vaughn is, and it's hilarious seeing him run away daintily and talk about boys - but Newtown as the serial killer psychopath is just as scene-stealing.
It also brings into question what they do and don't explain - why do we need to know all the backstory about her dead dad and family issues, but a magical dagger that switches people's bodies can be overlooked? I don't need to know why it's magical or where it came from- frankly, I don't care - but it just raises questions over the intent of this subplot and why it was handled so clunkily. Is it just for the headline "Horror-comedy brings the gore and the heart", and why does that matter?
The other downfall of 'Freaky' is the ending. Without spoiling, the film does a good job of leaving you wanting more with the subtle hint of a sequel - and just when everything seems nicely wrapped up, the film just keeps going. It felt like when you would buy a Disney Channel Original Movie on DVD and it would have an alternate ending added in right before the credits, and poorly cut in. The film could have just kept its nice, neat ending, but they just kept going and ruined it, cheapening the package and leaving a sour taste in my mouth.
'Freaky' succeeds when it sticks to the serial killer/swapped bodies storyline, but its need to add emotional depth to this horror-comedy and tack on an extended cheap ending weakens the whole film. Come for the deadly kills and big laughs, but maybe get up before the final 10.